Regular Folks

Usually when thinking about stunningly landscaped backyards one tends to imagine them attached to some fancy estate in a rural area, with masses of space and mature gardens that have never been affected by any form of pollution – because that’s what you’re most likely to find if browsing through the pages of a garden design magazine. My folks live in an urban area, on a quiet road that is nonetheless in the center of a large city, so when looking at such magazines nowadays I to picture the designs they display in a built-up area.

The thing is, when I think of my parents’ garden in relation to their characters I am rather amused by the paradox: they’re regular working people who enjoy gardening, not the tender and calm earth-loving couple one could imagine by stepping into their stunning backyard. For them gardening is a like a dare, and they don’t shy away from the hard, physical work required to keep their green oasis looking like it’s ready for a magazine photo shoot. The resulting atmosphere is so peaceful that you feel you could stay in their garden forever.

Those gardening magazines do not tend to feature gardens designed and maintained by regular working people: you’d be excused to believe that in order to be successful at gardening your need to be a total nature-lover or retired! I think their writers would get a bit of a shock if they ever were to talk to my folks and realize how small a part nature plays in their whole scheme. For them it’s a very logical and almost clinical process that involves finding the right scientific balance between watering and sun exposure in order for their chosen plants to thrive and mesh together like well-oiled cogs that just turn out to be of the vegetal kind.

Adirondack Chairs

What makes Adirondack chairs such a quality seating option, is the fact that they are so comfortable. Their high level of comfort comes from its design that dates back to the first part of the 19th century, which features a sloped, slated back rest, spacious, slanted seat, and armrests. Over the years, there have been many variations made on this traditional design and some of those include having oversized armrests, shell backs, and straight, un-slanted back rests. Either way though, these outdoor seating options are very relaxing and would be a nice addition to any outdoor area. Like, they are perfect for your deck, patio, porch, even backyard garden area where you want retreat to and get away from it all. When paired with a fabulous ottoman, one is made even more comfortable because then you not only have an awesome place to sit, but you have a cozy place to rest your feet after a stressful day at the office. One other accessory that also adds a ton of comfort are fabulous cushions, but be aware that now all cushions are made the same and the best ones available are Sunbrella cushions, which are weather resistant.

In the 19th century, Adirondack chairs were simply made out of wood, but now they cannot only be made out of that, but can also be crafted out of other synthetic materials as well including heavy-duty plastic that is extremely resistant to the weather. However, wood is still a top-notch material option and some of the higher quality woods to choose from include alder, red or white cedar, redwood, southern cypress, pine, shorea, and teak. Like the plastic, the wood materials are also very heavy-duty and durable. Both feature a number of different colors and finishes, which is great for you because then it is easy to find something that you like and would look good in your outdoor space. For example, if you like something that is more on the simple side, then you could go with one made out of wood that has a plain finish, or you could even have it painted white for a nice, classic appearance. Or, if you want something a little more daring, there are both plastic and wood options that are offered in vibrant colors, including blue, yellow, and even pink. Basically, there are a slew of options available and one great way to see them all is by jumping online and checking out all the different web stores.

So, before the summer starts flying by, take a moment to look around your deck or patio and make sure that your outdoor furniture is up to par. Nothing is worse than hosting a backyard get-together only to have you guests leave early because their sitting options are so uncomfortable. To avoid that problem, furnish your outdoor space with lavish Adirondack chairs. They are a wonderful seating option that is sure to bring a smile to you, and your guests, faces.

Early Spring Pond

  • Plan This Year’s Improvements: Use this early Spring time to get an idea of any new improvements you want to make to your pond. Will you be adding a water feature, or a new UV light? This a great time of year to get started. The weather is cool, and everything is already shut off for the winter.
  • Take Inventory: Have you convinced your spouse that you deserve a new underwater light with 144 different color combinations? Or maybe just a new pond net? Having a pond can be an expensive hobby. I like to buy one new major item a year. This keeps the cost low, and after a few seasons you will have everything you thought you needed.
  • Start Fresh with a Healthy Pond: This time of year, the pond is very fragile. Everything is starting to come out of the winter freeze. Be prepared for anything with PH Up/Down, Microbe-Lift and other pond treatments. Don’t get too excited about starting up your pond. A lot of pond owners start moving water far too soon and end up with busted pipes when the last frost hits. There always seems to be a week or two of spring like weather and then one final freeze. A lot of wineries know about this and if you still see plastic frost shields on orchards then it would be wise to follow their advice.
  • Check Electrical and Plumbing: Now is the ideal time to make any fixes to your plumbing. With all of the water flushed out of the lines you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing any broken spots. It is best to find any electrical/ plumbing issues now, before the Summer sun comes out and makes this a time critical fix.

Enjoy your creation. After all, this is what owning a pond or water garden is all about. Isn’t it? Unless you are in the tip 1% and pay someone to care for you. In that case I’m flattered your reading my article.

Bottom line. You will learn your pond. each pond is an ecosystem that develops its own quirks. Learn what your pond needs and try to help it get there. Working with nature is the only way to achieve a healthy pond.

APS Pond Supply is an online retailer of pond supplies located in Tri-Cities, WA. We offer low prices on pond pumps, pond filters, water treatment, Koi food, UV sterilizers, and much more. In our community there are limited affordable places to shop for pond supplies. We feel our prices (including shipping) are very competitive online as well as locally.The mission of APS Pond Supply is to offer the best pond supplies available with exceptional customer service. Our website is optimized to provide you with a safe and secure environment to begin or continue your water gardening adventure.

Crafting Shed

Begin the deck with 2x4s, pressure-treated, by attaching them to the frame vertically by employing a framing nailer. Install two 9-foot side pieces and lay them beside each other before installing two 4-foot end pieces. Mark each location of the joists to make sure that they will be evenly spaced at exactly 16 inches, then secure the end pieces and secure the joists to the frame using the framing nailer. Next, install 5/4″ decking to secure the decking boards using a screw gun. Install each with the cleaner side facing upwards, and install the first board along the edge and allow it to overhang the frame’s edge by half an inch.

Using the complete deck as a work surface, begin building the walls by laying out 8-foot-tall wall panels for the sides, top plate, bottom plate and studs that are spaced at 16 inches. Secure them together using a nail gun and repeat this process until the wall panels are finished. Nail them to the deck to raise the walls and scan the structure using a framing square. Build two more narrow panels for the wall that will hold the door using two 2x4s for the side for more strength on either side.

After both the front wall panels are set in the constructing a storage shed and the structure is finished, add 2x4s across the top to make a double top-plate. This will ensure that the shed is stronger. Once all the wall panels are done hang 4″x8″ sheets of OSB siding for the outside.

To make the roof rafters cut 2×6 boards and make them 13 inches long at the center. Now secure them with cleats made from OSB. Raise and attach them to the headers, then use 1×6 strips for the tops of the rafters and tie them to add support for the roofing sheets. Next, nail down the roofing sheets with self-sealing nails and washers.

After the completion of the boxes, cut holes for the windows and the storage boxes using a reciprocating saw. To make specific cuts through the OSB, cut between the studs. Next, attach vinyl siding to the outside of the shed using the manufacturer’s instructions. Starting at the corners, work your way to the middle and secure the siding using nails to the OSB.

Now once the main steps to construct a storage shed are completed, the doors and any storage pieces can be added. Make the two doors from one sheet of 3/4″ plywood that will be cut in half and has a 1″x4″ trim for the outer frame and barn-style “X” braces. Use 1/2″ plywood for the storage pieces that will be fastened with glue and nails for securing previously cut openings. Having a ramp to use for the front door will make it easier to store and retrieve tools such as mowers.

Take Care of a Bamboo Plant

Sunlight

Bamboo does best in direct and full sunlight. For this reason, don’t be afraid to plop your bamboo plant right in the middle of your garden. Don’t worry about hot spots or too much sun, the bamboo wants that.

Soil

Think acidic! Whether you plant your bamboo indoors or out, make sure that you plant it in some moderately acidic soil.

Bonus Tip: When you bamboo plant sheds leaves let them rest on the ground on top of the soil and mulch. This is will enable to the soil to stay moist and provide the nourishment that your plant will need to keep growing well.

Watering

Younger bamboo plants will need more water than when they are older. Water your younger plants twice a week. During the summer months of dryness and wind, make sure that you water your bamboo daily and be generous. Once you have the bamboo right where you want it and at the desired height, you can drop down your watering to just once per week. Don’t worry, your plant will continue to flourish and the reduce water will cut down on growth.

Planting Multiple Trees

If you’re going for a natural looking yard screen, then the bamboo is the perfect plant to provide it. Plant your plants about 3 to 5 feet apart. Bamboo is a giant grass and each year, your plants will throw up taller and stronger shoots so that annual maintenance of your natural screen may be necessary.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea

Leave them alone! Really. Quit tinkering with your plants trying to give them every little thing they need. What they really need is good soil, and adequate amount but not an over abundance of water and some sunshine. That’s about it. Quit fertilizing them and pouring all kinds of concoctions on them.

They know what to do. They are genetically wired to do one thing and only one thing. Make leaves and make flowers! Okay, so that’s two things. But they know that. They don’t need you sticking your nose in their business. If you give them the three things mentioned above and leave them alone they will grow and bloom.

Nikko Blue is in the macrophylla family of hydrangeas and therefore most people say to prune it right after it blooms. That’s great advice and you should follow it, but this spring I discovered something that has me a little perplexed. I bought about 50 Nikko Blues this spring. They were in the field and were dug just a tad late. On top of that I think they got tazed by a little frost. That’s a new gardening term, Tazed. In other words, they didn’t look so good, and were pretty much unappealing.

So I decided to prune them really hard, even though it was the middle of May.

What happened? After they were pruned they flushed out with beautiful new growth and then started blooming like crazy! Not only did I prune them in the middle of May, I cut them back really hard.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many, many times in the future.
Quit tinkering with your plants!

They don’t need all of those store bought concoctions to make them do this or do that, sing and dance and jump over the moon. They just don’t need it! They need good soil that drains well, water on a regular basis, and sunshine. That’s what they need. That’s all they need.

Mike! Liar, liar Pants on Fire!

You just said you fertilized these hydrangeas in June! You’re telling me not to fertilize and you are fertilizing. You tell me one thing and then you do something else yourself. What gives Mike?

Great question! You caught me. This is really important for you to understand. The plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever. Except maybe the roses because if and when I remember to do so I spray them with Bayer 3-1 Rose and Flower Spray and that does contain some fertilizer. All of the other plants in my landscape do not get fertilized ever. They haven’t been fertilized since I bought them.

Why no fertilizer for the plants in my landscape? They just don’t need it. They do absolutely fine without it.

Plants that are grown in the nursery in containers are grown in what is called a soil-less growing mix. In other words, the soil in the pot is not soil at all and it does not contain any soil. It’s usually a combination of bark mixes. There are a lot of reasons for this and a big one is drainage. These bark mixes drain really well. But that means that a lot of nutrients are getting washed away before they can be absorbed by the plant. And these soil-less mixes are really low in nutrients to begin with. So plants grown in containers have to be fertilized. Plants in a landscape do not have to be fertilized. I hope that makes sense.

If your Nikko Blue is not Blue, or Blue enough you can add Aluminum Sulfate to the soil and that should make the blooms more blue in color. You can get the Aluminum Sulfate at any full service garden center.
How Do You Propagate Hydrangeas?

Most hydrangeas are easy to propagate if you do them in the summer using soft new growth. Not spring, but summer. Mid June or later.

Quit tinkering with your plants. Just let them be plants. They know what to do. In order for plants to make a flower bud they have to slow down or almost quit growing all together to work on flower buds. But if you are dumping all kind of performance enhancing concoctions on them they can’t slow down and make flowers. It’s like you holding the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor then trying to turn the corner. It just not going to work!

Landscaping for Wildlife

Plants draw different kinds of wildlife, different species of birds, butterflies and chipmunks to name a few. You must choose what kind of animals you want to attract to your home.

The first thing that the person must realize is that there are four basic things that are needed for wildlife to exist. Trees provide saps or seeds as a source of food for birds. For other creatures that frequent the area, you can accommodate them by having feeders installed in the garden or yard. To know the right type of food to place in the feeder, you should research what the animals eat.

All creatures need water to survive. A pond or fountain in the garden can provide sustenance for those who frequent your garden. Just be sure that the water is clean and safe at all times for the animals to drink.

Knowledge can give you a real advantage. To make sure you’re fully informed about landscaping for wildlife, keep reading.

Animals need a good place to serve as a shelter, nesting and breeding ground. You can make a bird house or purchase one. They are available in many shapes and forms which are good for birds and bats. Once this has been made or purchased, it can be installed in the backyard.

Trees planted in the garden can also serve as shelter and housing for creatures that live near your home. A good example is an evergreen tree that serves as protection against predators.

Studies have shown that the use of plants that are not natural to the area destroys plants that are native. Since the creatures that you want around all year are native to the surroundings, it is advisable to use plants that these animals are accustomed to. That way, different creatures will be able to co-exist.

By focusing on these four factors, you will be able to enjoy the diverse wildlife not just visiting but already living in your area.

After the planning and construction phase of the project has been done, you will be able to enjoy the various species of birds, squirrels and other creatures that are native to your geographical area.

Teakwood Garden Furniture

Indonesian teak garden furniture is a great place to start for your outdoor improvement project. Dining tables with matching chairs are very useful additions to your patio. Once you decide on the size of your table you can choose chairs with or without brass hardware. Brass is used in the construction of folding teak chairs because it will never rust. This makes the chairs easier to recline, fold and unfold, and can also help create a more intricate design. Teakwood chairs can also be made without hardware and they are just as durable. Teak patio furniture is the best investment for your outdoor garden and living space.

Teakwood is very simple to care for because the high oil content of the wood makes it very resistant to the elements and many owners leave their furniture outdoors all year. Teak oil can be used once a month to retain its luster and you can find it at your local home improvement center at minimal cost. It can be applied with a soft cloth and rubbed into the wood to produce a natural shine. You should oil your teakwood if it is outside on a regular basis to keep the nice light brown color. But, if you choose not perform a monthly application to your teakwood it will still retain is strong structure. Teakwood that is not maintained with teak oil will turn a beautiful silvery gray giving it a more rustic appeal. Furniture that is kept indoors and is oiled a few times a year will maintain a light brown color.

The tight grain and high oil content of teakwood make it resistant to the forces of Nature that can destroy other outdoor furniture. It can withstand wind, rain, and sunlight without warping, shrinking or rotting. Lawn furniture can make a dramatic improvement to your outdoor space when choosing furniture made from teak wood. You may start off with a simple teak garden bench and then add to your outdoor collection when both you and your budget are ready. But whatever you choose for your teak garden furniture it will be an investment that will last you a lifetime.

Creating Edible Hedge

Due to the small garden spaces, I would recommend to use ‘dwarf’ tree varieties, and there are plenty of them! You can use them as hedges to create privacy in your yard. You can use crabapple and citrus trees that can be trained to give you a lush privacy screen. Or you can use shrubs, such as blueberry, raspberry, hazelnut, elderberry or gooseberry as excellent alternatives.

Whilst the main purpose of an edible hedge is to produce edible nuts, berries, leaves and other parts, you should also ensure to mix with them other plants that attract pollinators and other beneficiary insects. This can increase the amount of food you can produce by approximately 30%!

Also keep in mind that most edible hedges will lose their leaves in winter. If you are looking for an evergreen hedge you should consider citrus fruit, sweet bay or rosemary.

If you don’t have enough room, you can always train trees into fences by using the technique of espaliering. Espailering is the technique used to train shrubs or trees grow in a flat line, it gives it more strength if you can train the tree against a flat wall or trellis.

This technique has been around for centuries, as it allows large trees to be grown in small areas, and also to provide a creative way of growing fruit. It is mainly used on apple, pear, apricot, plum, cherry and almond trees.

You can get rather creative with your patterns when espaliering, one thing to keep in mind, no matter which pattern you are choosing, is that you will have to constantly prune and train your chosen plants to keep them growing the way you want them to, so you have to ensure that you have the dedication to keep on working on your fruit plants.

Art of Pruning

Begin with the basics. First cut back any diseased or damaged branches. Cut back to the undamaged and health branches. If there are two branches that are crossing, cut the most awkwardly placed branch back to the main stem. If there are any weak branches, cut them right down to the base. Pruning to preserve the shape of the tree or shrub or if you are want to promote growth, then the pruning is done between the buds on the stems. If the buds are positioned opposite each other on the stem, make a clean horizontal cut just above them, about 1 cm. If the buds are placed alternately you should angle the cut, starting on the opposite side of the stem and slanting upwards so the top of the cut is about 1 cm above the bud on the other side. Remember that if you want to influence the shape of the tree or shrub you will need to prune back to two or more buds, as the new branch will grow in the direction the bud you prune to, is facing. For example, if a plant is growing over the path or paving, try to prune away from the path or paving, while if possible, not to spoil the plants overall shape.

Knowing when to prune which plants is important. There are shrubs that flower on the current year’s growth. These are pruned in early spring which promotes further flowering and growth later in the season. Other shrubs flower on a one year old wood and flower early in spring. These are cut back as soon as their flowers have faded. This ensures flowering the following season. Any trimming of shrubs that produce their flowers on short growths which extend from the main branch should be done in late spring, once the flowering has finished.